There was an apple tree in the yard —
this would have been
forty years ago — behind,
only meadows. Drifts
off crocus in the damp grass.
I stood at that window:
late April. Spring
flowers in the neighbor’s yard.
How many times, really, did the tree
flower on my birthday,
the exact day, not
before, not after? Substitution
of the immutable
for the shifting, the evolving.
Substitution of the image
for relentless earth. What
do I know of this place,
the role of the tree for decades
taken by a bonsai, voices
rising from tennis courts —
Fields. Smell of the tall grass, new cut.
As one expects of a lyric poet.
We look at the world once, in childhood.
The rest is memory.
Louise Glück, from Meadowlands (Harper Collins)
“Glück seems to be saying that childhood is the only constant, immutable thing, while everything that comes after that—“the rest,” she says, our whole adult life—occurs in the shifty arena of memory. Our whole present tense takes place in the shadows of the original, pure impressions of childhood.